Sarah Etaat

Seam Houses

The part-to-part relationship in buildings that results from the fundamental logic of assembly is coded into the basis of all buildings projects. By foregrounding the assembly of those parts, joinery must be addressed, and if joints are left exposed, they create seams. A seam is a 2.5-D illusion of a line along which two parts meet: it is the element that dictates the rhythm and movement of its adjacent parts.

Seam houses looks at the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in Los Angeles, and employs the logic of the seam to approach the ADU condition at three scales: the site scale, the scale between building and furniture, and the detail scale. The ADU typology uniquely puts two residences on a lot, joined by a yard. Seams and ADUs alike never stand on their own – they are always in relationship to something else.

This project proposes to adapt existing detached garages into homes through a series of parts. To convert an existing garage into an ADU, it is partially deconstructed, and two layers are added: an outer and inner layer. An exterior layer is how the ADU adapts itself to the scale of its urban environment, and an interior layer converts the function to a home. The interior layer maximizes the useable space by integrating functions into the periphery and by interorizing a portion of the yard. Ultimately, the layers are sheet materials that fold into each other. The space that is left in between the layers is the structure, insulation, etc, but also, the area where joined services can be placed and neighborly exchanges can made.


(The selected drawings explore two ADU scenarios: adapting the interior of an existing garage, and adding a second story to an existing garage.)

A drawing convention that I have become fascinated by is the single line weight drawing, paired with an unfolded drawing. I’ve found that single line weight drawings flatten the drawing space and eliminate the hierarchy between edges and seams, which allows the seam to play an elevated role in defining space and rhythm. By unfolding all of the surfaces into one drawing, the space can be worked through as a series of layers of sheet materials that fold over different axis.


Banham, Reyner. Los Angeles: the Architecture of Four Ecologies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.
Berlin, Isaiah. The Hedgehog and the Fox. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967.
Bru, Stephanie, Alexandre Theroit, and Christian Kerez. Bruther: 2012-2018. El Croquis 197. Madrid: El Croquis, 2018.
Colomina, Beatriz. Unbreathed Air 1956. Grey Room 29. MIT Press, 2004.
Dujardin, Filip. Filip Dujardin: Fictions. San Francisco: Highlight Gallery, 2011.
Engel, Heino. Measure and Construction of the Japanese House. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2009.
Etenza, John. Case Study House Program Announcement. Arts & Architecture. 1945.
Evans, Robin. Robin Evans: Translation from Drawing to Building and Other Essays. London: Architectural Association, 1997.
Frampton, Kenneth, and John Cava. Studies in Tectonic Culture: the Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2001.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969.
Rowe, Colin, and Fred Koetter. Collage City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998.
Vassallo Jesús, and Juan Herreros. Seamless: Digital Collage and Dirty Realism in Contemporary Architecture. Zürich: Park Books, 2016.


Batzenschlager, Thomas. L’Habitant Temporaire. 2016.
Craig-Martin, Michael. Wall Drawings. 1978-88.
Dogma. The Room of One’s Own. 2002
Fontaine, Pierre Francois Leonard. Drawing Model for a Music Room. 1803.
Miralles, Enrique. Plans.
Schindler, Rudolph. Isometric From Southwest, Kings Road House. 1921.
Tessenow, Heinrich. Interior Drawings.


Bruther. Cultural and Sports Center.
Koenig, Pierre. Case Study House 21.
LA Mas. ADU Pilot Project.
Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig. Barcelona Pavilion.
Scarpa, Carlo. Fondazione Quarini Stampalia.
Schindler, Rudolph. Kings Road House. 1921

ADU Resources:

Anderson, Frances. Your Home Can Have a baby, and it’s called an ADU. Design and Culture.
Blumenfled, Jane and Dana Cuff, Building an ADU: Guidebook to Accessory Dwelling Units in the City of Los Angeles, CityLab, UCLA, 2017

KCRW. 2018.

Chandler, Jenna. TICs could change LA’s housing market—for better, and worse. Curbed Los Angeles. 2019.

LA City Building Code

Yes to ADU, LA County Arts & Culture,